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Models and mechanisms

Neurons under a microscope

Our work aims to reveal the biological mechanisms by which genes and life events influence our brain function and behaviour in health and disease.

Why models?

The key advantage of utilising model systems is that we can simplify and isolate specific components of biological processes to help us understand how brain function and behaviour works optimally in health and how these processes can go wrong in disease states.

From molecules to organisms

We investigate brain function at the level of cells, circuits and behaving animals. Biochemical and molecular approaches in cells can be very important in getting off first base where little or nothing is known about the biological function of a molecule, for example a protein that may have been implicated in brain disease by methods such as genetic screening carried out by colleagues in the CNGG.

We also exploit the rapid advances in knowledge about stem cells to create disease-relevant cellular models “brain diseases in a dish”, which we can then use to dissect out the biological processes that go wrong in the disease.

We complement our cellular work with studies of brain function in model organisms which allows us to probe the workings of an intact brain across several levels of analysis, including:

  • neurochemical mechanisms involved in brain cell communication
  • plastic changes in brain function due to genetics and life experiences and
  • coordinated electrical activity between different brain circuits underlying complex behavioural process such as perception, learning, and memory.

We perform these studies with a range of colleagues across Cardiff University, including Optometry and Vision Sciences, Biosciences, Psychology and the Behavioural Genetics Group, and external collaborators in Bristol, Cambridge and Bath.


We translate the information obtained in model systems back to humans in order to better understand pathogenic mechanisms and inform the development of better therapies.

Model systems are especially suitable in preclinical drug discovery. They allow us to probe the therapeutic potential of drugs targeting disease-relevant mechanisms. For instance, currently we are assessing the efficacy of drug compounds targeting biological processes (“AMPA” and “GABAA” receptors) highlighted by the latest genetic screen for schizophrenia obtained by colleagues in the CNGG.

Theme leads

Professor Lawrence Wilkinson

Professor Lawrence Wilkinson

Co Director, Neuroscience and Mental Health Innovation Institute

+44(0) 29 2068 8461
Professor Derek Blake

Professor Derek Blake

Professor of Neuroscience, Division of Psychological Medicine and Clinical Neurosciences

+44 (0)29 2068 8468